Post Surgery Update: Two Weeks and… Um. Yeah.

Two weeks ago, I took a week off of work to have surgery, recover, and spend a little time catching up on some projects for myself. Turns put, only part of that happened. Surgery? Check. Recovery? Eh… Still in progress. Getting stuff done? In bits and pieces… But nowhere near like what I expected.

I have been too tired to watch television. Too dizzy to read. Sleeping 20 hours a day, in little naps, or not sleeping at all. The first time, last week, I felt better and ready to get back on track — I had a huge setback, and it took days to get better. I did! In time to go back to work. But I wasn’t done recovering, I guess, because I woke up Sunday morning with vertigo. It’s one of those side effects you usually get right away or not at all, and since I felt great immediately after the surgery, I wasn’t expecting this.

I have to remember that I’m wired to be strong, in the moment: having surgery or a baby or dealing with emergencies… I’m present and capable and make it work. But sometimes there’s a price to pay for that, and for me that’s having the physical or emotional reaction after the fact, when it’s safe to do so. Not always convenient, but better than falling apart when I need to be focused instead. I don’t know if what’s kept me from healing has been that I was sick just a few days before the surgery, or the throat injury/infection I got from the breathing tube, or if I somehow got water inside of my ear canal (which was supposed to healed closed by now), or that last week was unbelievably stressful — or all of those things together. It doesn’t really matter, because the situation is what is.

I’m going to lose a week of work, without pay. I’m dizzy and nauseated and exhausted. I’m on a steroid to reduce the swelling in my ear (what’s causing the vertigo) so that it doesn’t permanently damage my hearing. I’m on another drug to reduce the dizziness, though I still can’t drive or turn 90 degrees around a corner without losing my balance. Even reading my tablet as I write this hurts my head, and I think I need to go back to bed again.

But the only way out is through. I will be better in a few days. I already know that my hearing in greatly improved, and the sounds I was frightened of losing, I get to keep listening to, for a long time. And now I have whole new experiences to write about, when the world stops spinning.

Snokone/Boskone Recap: Escape from Blizzardopolis

We were all set to leave for Boston bright and early last Friday morning, when I got a 6 am email that my son’s school was closing for the day. The morning ended up being a mix of looking for a sitter, enjoying a comfortably-paced breakfast at home with the whole family, and worrying about which panels we’d have to be late to. (For the record: I missed the “Food in Fiction” panel, and the SFF Poetry panel.) I managed to get a hold of someone, we packed up the car, and had an easy 5.5 hour drive to the convention. It seemed the worst part of the trip would be out of the way at the very beginning.

There was just enough time to drop off luggage, pick up badges, and for me to down a large Manhattan, before the 8 PM panel “Father, You Made Me”. Well-moderated, smart people saying smart things. Then Don‘s reading, which was attended by multiple people, even though the room was… a boardroom. Complete with a gigantic oval table that we all sat around. But he made it work, and read both previously published and in-progress work. After that was food — love the casualness of that Irish-style pub, and thoroughly enjoyed what turned out to be the only meal we ate in Boston — and sleep.

Saturday started off right in the hotel room with pour-over espressos and paczki we brought from home. Then, a tour of the art show. I don’t remember doing that last year, but there was an amazing private collection of 20th century SFF-related art, including a lot of original book cover art that I adored. I also was given a beautiful pair of huge garnet earrings that made me feel pretty right before my noon reading, and slightly distracted me from being nervous. I ended up reading “Annabelle Tree“, and wasn’t entirely prepared for that request, so while I read it through just fine, I have to admit that I teared up at the end. I hadn’t read the story in a long time, and I don’t think I’d ever read it for an audience before, so it was a little bit new to me again. I’m glad I got the opportunity to experience it in that way.

Because of my reading, I missed the beginning of “Finding Diverse Fiction”, but it was worth attending just the second half. I was pleased to see that the panelists themselves were a diverse group of people, and again, it was a group of smart people saying smart things about finding and creating diversity in the work we read and write. I wish I’d have been there for all of it. I spent an hour prepping for the rest of the day: making plans to meet up with folks, record an audio interview, and spend several hours finishing up the newest issue of Lakeside Circus so I could roll that out. (I had 7 hours free before my 10 PM panel on Jodorowski; plenty of time!) The panel — Non-Western Folklore and Fairy Tales with Ken Liu and Max Gladstone — was so much fun. It was just the three of us, but as I later declared on Twitter, you can easily have an amazing panel that’s just Ken and Max in conversation with each other. I am comfortable admitting that I added useful things to this particular conversation, but seriously, if you want intelligent fiction written by incredibly intelligent, well-read people whose interests include non-Western fiction, check out their work. I know Ken well from working with him several times before, and Max I’m getting to know from having attended some of the same conventions and being on some of the same panels; they’re authors I can trust the passion they have for literature to their work. Or panels. Or the bar. Or the one time we stayed up late drinking in the hallway at Readercon and listening to Max explain how social-status drink buying works in China.

Um. Right. Back to Boskone. The plan was, go to Fran‘s reading at 3 PM, then get a proper meal, do an interview, be a bit social, and buckle down for a chunk of editing/formatting/web page building work before a late dinner and then the JODOROWSKI PANEL. (I love Jodorowski’s work, I suggested this panel, and I knew at least one other panelist had spent the last several weeks prepping for it the way that I had.)

None of these things happened.

While in Fran’s reading, I got a text from my sitter asking if we’d be able to be back by Monday morning, or whether the winter storm we knew about — which had morphed into a blizzard without us knowing about it — was going to strand us at the hotel into Tuesday. Note: we’d planned to leave Sunday after my last panel, like usual. Checked the weather reports, and within a few minutes realized that our choices were to leave right then, or plan to stay until Tuesday, because travel on Sunday would be “nearly impossible, and life threatening” given the 50mph winds and white out conditions now forecasted. Monday was expected to be less snowy but actually colder. With work and a child at home, we decided there was no choice but to leave, and were out of the hotel 30 minutes later. And… much snow-covered driving ensued.

But don’t feel bad for me. Thanks to the wonderful programming committee, I got to have a great time at Boskone 52, even though I was there for less than 24 hours, and let me just tell you this: the best Valentine’s Day present ever might just be finding out who’s got your back during a blizzard.

Note: “Snokone”, name for the snowy alt-version of Boskone, was coined by Fran Wilde.

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What’s An Introvert To Do?

I’ve been at my new day job for seven weeks now. In that time, I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook only a handful of times; published three blog posts here; checked my email occasionally, but not nearly as often as before. In the past, I’ve gone quiet when I’ve been overwhelmed with life — gone into hiding, in a way, from everything that threatened to topple over and bury me under its weight.

This is  not that.

I work in a place that provides a wide range of services to members of our community, most of whom don’t have other options. Continue reading

Money and Me: 2014 Edition

At the beginning of 2014, I started a project that would turn out to be far more ambitious than I’d expected, and ultimately change my life in big ways and small. I made a budget. For most people, that’s a small thing itself. For me –

I grew up poor, and that never really got better. I can’t remember a time I felt as though I had enough money to pay my bills, month after month, for more than a couple of months in a row. Over the years I got into bad habits with money, the kind of habits that come from knowing, for a sure and certain fact, that you will never be able to afford everything you need to get by, and you’re going to have to choose which thing to pay, and which to incur late fees on, or lose completely. Tiny, insignificant, choices, become monumental. Deciding whether to take my son to McDonalds for an order of chicken nuggets becomes a choice between giving my child a treat he’s been begging for all week, when he is cold and not feeling well and we haven’t been able to afford toys or movies or treats of any other kind and I already feel terrible that I can never do for him what other parents do for their kids — or washing a load of laundry we’ll need to get him into clean clothes for the school week. After a while, any money that comes in is paying off what’s already behind, and there’s never any hope that you’ll be able to build up savings, and the things you need to be even remotely comfortable and fed and safe are added to a growing list of things you mean to buy, someday, when you can…

The last couple of years have been the hardest for me that I’ve been through in a long time, but while all of that was happening, I figured out that I had everything I’d need for a good life right in front of me. In pieces, anyway. I had my writing, my son, the ability to do well at an administrative day job, and someone who made me want to be a better/more successful person. I had drive and skills, but those bad habits and some obstacles that felt impossible to overcome (debt, a lack of stable childcare, a horrible living situation) fed into the lack of hope that kept me from thinking any plan I put into place would actually work. Eventually I decided the future I could have was worth trying for, even though I was certain that everything I reached for would eventually be taken away. Continue reading

Writing Process Blog Tour

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam invited me to join this blog relay on writing craft. Her post is here.

1. What am I working on?

I’ve got three big projects right now, as well as a couple of short stories I need to revise, and my editing work. I’m concurrently writing two novels and compiling a mosaic novelette of SF poetry. The working titles are:

  • Sonnets for the Rocket Queen – 144 Shakespearean-style sonnets about love, loss, and space ships.
  • Shades of Gray – first person, female protagonist, modern day, ghost story. Urban fantasy without the tramp stamp. Miéville noir with a female lead.
  • Caudal Ballad – third person PoV, multiple protagonists, surreal/interstitial. Borges meets Nabakov, with traces of Burroughs and Poe.

Shades and Caudal are set in the same universe, same town, at the same time, and explore a series of events from very different perspectives. They don’t need to be read together.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

No one else has read what I read, in exactly the same way, or lived my life, or shares my exact sense of humor. That’s true of all of us. For that alone, I’d like to think what I write is different. When you add to that mix that I write because I have a story in my head I want to get out — instead of for fame, money, respect, or notoriety — and that if I’ve read the same story elsewhere I no longer want to write it, then what I do produce fits into a small space occupied by not much else.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Have you ever read something and thought, “Oh, yeah, that is true”? You learn some fact you didn’t know before, but based on everything else you know, this thing makes sense. I love to read fiction that has that resonance of truth, and I don’t want to put any of my own writing out into the world unless it speaks to me in the same way. It has to answer a question, or provide a viewpoint which clarifies a confusion you didn’t even know you had. I want to feel more alive, more knowledgeable, when I’ve finished a piece of reading. Even if the knowledge is sad.

I’m also interested in mixes of genres or the places where multiple genres lean against each other. I think that when you work in solid, simple, mainstream, genres, whether it’s literary or epic fantasy or hard science fiction, you’re more likely to be retreading the same old ground. There are stories which slip between the cracks, tales that don’t quite fit, and are therefore told a lot less often. Those are the stories I want to tell.

4. How does my writing process work?

My current writing process was developed over years of failing to produce consistent work. Ideas, I have. Ideas are easy. They’re everywhere. I’m lucky that my subconscious, what I call my lizard brain, is strong enough that I can decide I want to work on a story, spend a little time thinking about it, and then move on to another task, another piece of writing. Meanwhile, my lizard brain will keep writing, until one day, it taps me on the shoulder and says, “Here you go.”

The hard part is always writing it down. I’m chronically overbooked, overworked, and exhausted. I don’t have time to read for pleasure, be with my family the way I’d like. So, how do I find time to write?

I carefully manage what I have, and the rest I need, I steal. The managing comes from being organized — two white boards at home, online spreadsheets, Field Notes books in my bags to scribble down thoughts, post-it notes on the wall, documents saved to Drive so I can work on them anywhere. I manage my time like I structure my writing, so I’ve got spreadsheets for how much time is spent on each freelance project, to do lists, and even my daily word count.

Doing that means I’ve got everything I’ve written down whenever I want it, and knowing whether I’ve spent enough time on other projects that day tells me how much I have left for writing. If it’s not enough to get out the part of the story I’m ready to write down, I take what I need from other places. I write instead of going out. I write instead of getting to bed on time. I write on my lunch breaks, before work, while watching tv, during dinner. Not all of those times every day, but whatever I need to make sure that every day, I am writing.

I’m a better writer because of it, and I think that I more fully enjoy the times I spend with my family, partner, friends because I know what I give up to write, and what I give up to be with them. I cherish everything. To me, making time to write feels like having it all.

* I was supposed to tag two more writers who’d then complete this meme and pass it on. Instead, I am tagging all of you. Write your own posts, and leave me a comment with the link so I can go read yours too.

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